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ABOUT THE BOOK
THE WANGS VS THE WORLD
By Jade Chang
Release: October 4, 2016
A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent—and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together.
Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.
Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.
Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.
This is truly a BUZZ BOOK FOR FALL!
- One of Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Titles of 2016
- A Fall 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Pick
- A Publishers Lunch Fall 16 Buzz Book
- A The Millions Most Anticipated Book
- One of Library Journal’s “Five Big Debuts” for Fall 16
“In Jade Chang’s highly entertaining debut novel THE WANGS VS. THE WORLD, Taiwanese-born American businessman Charles Wang loses his fortune to the 2008 recession and must unite his children to start fresh in China….A meditation on what it means to be an immigrant in America, The Wangs vs. the World shows the often surprising ways hardship can bring a dysfunctional family closer together.” —BuzzFeed
“THE WANGS VS. THE WORLD is a funny and touching novel about what it means to belong in America.” —PopSugar
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JADE CHANG has covered arts and culture as a journalist and editor. She is the recipient of a Sundance Fellowship for Arts Journalism, the AIGA/Winterhouse Award for Design Criticism, and the James D. Houston Memorial scholarship from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
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PLEASE WELCOME JADE TO BOOKHOUNDS YA
Is the story of the Wangs similar to your own family story?
Charles’s backstory is similar to my parents’ background, but my sister and I definitely did not grow up on a Bel-Air estate! And there was no new, American-built fortune—cosmetics or otherwise—to lose. Like Charles, both of my parents are from families that had to flee China during and after WWII and they both grew up in Taiwan, which is where Charles grew up as well. There’s an entire generation of families who lost land and fortunes in mainland China and fled to Taiwan with the Nationalist Army. It’s an interesting and troubled history, and it’s part of the Chinese diaspora that hasn’t been written about in a lot of contemporary fiction, so I was definitely interested in giving the Wangs that same family background.
Why did you decide to set the book in 2008, at the start of the financial collapse?
I first started thinking about this book right around then. I was working at a luxury magazine, so I got a real front row seat to rich people freaking out. It was an electric, uncertain time and it really felt like anything could happen in ways both good and bad. And then, in the late summer of 2008, I went to a ridiculously overthe-top party for Trump Tower Dubai. From the beginning it was clear that this party was going to be offensively ostentatious—the invites themselves were some kind of plaque encased in heavy slabs of overweight plastic. It was held at a mansion in Bel-Air, Cristina Aguilera performed, Cirque du Soleil © Amanda Yates Garcia performers stalked around on stilts, Wolfgang Puck himself was actually making and presenting food, and a good portion of that food was actually covered with 24 karat gold flakes. I may not be remembering this correctly, but in my memory there was a large, dark room with some sort of giant hologram projection of the proposed tower—which had not yet broken ground—atop some sort of topographic map. And even if that didn’t really exist, this was real: the party favors were iPod Touches for every guest, engraved with the Trump Tower Dubai logo.
It felt inevitable that the world would collapse under the weight of its own luxury. I remember standing next to a friend in the valet line and saying, “That’s it. It’s over. There’s going to be a huge recession.” And then, not long after, everything fell apart and the Dubai tower, of course, was never built.
In a way, that was the day I started working on this book.
Was that party the main inspiration for the book?
The party helped me coalesce my thoughts and provided a setting, but I’d say that the main inspiration for the book was a desire to write an immigrant novel that was kind of a rebellion against immigrant novels. I wanted to try to illuminate a new take on belonging in America, with immigrants who don’t yearn for acceptance or struggle to fit in. Instead, they’re here to knock shit down and rebuild the country in their own image! It was that joy and that anger that I wanted to capture!
You delve into so many different worlds in this book—there’s art, stand-up comedy, finance, beauty, style blogs…how did you research each one? And is there anything that connects them?
I like the idea of a gleeful con, and to me that is an aspect of both the art world and the world of finance. Besides that, I also think that each one of these creative worlds involves a fine balance of art and artifice, of true effort and pure swagger, and I find both sides of that equation to be really interesting and worth examining.
As for research, the answer is different for each one of the worlds! I probably had the most fun with comedy. Andrew, the middle child, is an aspiring stand-up and a true comedy nerd. I wrote two actual stand-up sets for Andrew, and I watched hours and hours of standup comedy to get myself in the right mindset. There’s an amazing comedy scene here in LA, and I went to a lot of live shows around town, watched hours of Asian comedians on YouTube (we need some more Asian comedians with one-hour specials!), and also watched pretty much every special on Netflix. It’s addictive. After a while I started to feel like I was constantly trying to turn all the bits of life into joke setups and that maybe I really just wanted to be a stand-up! I actually took an improv class at UCB (the theater started by Amy Poehler and three friends)—it was both amazing and slightly disastrous.
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danielle hammelef says
Yes, I’ve been on a fantastic road trip while in college–I traveled from Seattle to home and saw Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drugs store, The Badlands, Custer’s Last Stand, the Wisconsin Dells, and more. Ate grits for the first time too.
John Smith says
I have been on a road trip, and I yearn to read this book on my next road trip.
Yes, I’ve been on a road trip and I would love to go on some more.
Anne C says
I love going on road trips! I badly need one right now. 😀
Diane Elizabeth says
Yes, I’ve been on many. The most memorable being Ohio to Wyoming and back.
I’ve been on several road trips…some were more fun than others!
Daniel M says
just a few short ones